My name is Norman Whist. I know, that makes me sound like a card game. I write stories in my spare time and post them on the Fine Stories web site. Recently I posted a story about the invention of a faster-than-light space drive. It had received some congratulatory comments and even my editor had set pen to paper, or rather finger to keyboard. His comment had read:-
I still say that it's a damned good thing this is fiction. In real life, not only would the government steal the whole project, it would kidnap the entire staff. They would NEVER be seen again. Once they were deemed by the government as no longer useful, they would have been killed, and their bodies would NEVER have been found.
It couldn't happen? It already has, to a female whistleblower (regarding atomic radiation, If I remember correctly) in Texas or Louisiana, or thereabouts.
I loved this and the other comments from readers. Those and the votes from readers are the main rewards for an author. Anyway, on with what happened next.
My wife and I live in a remote area of Montana where the nearest village, and therefore the nearest shop, are some six miles off.
I was idly sitting in front of the television set, thinking about the plot for my next story when I heard a car draw up to the front gate. Three gentlemen in dark suits and even darker glasses got out of the car. It was not all that sunny. One stayed with the car, constantly looking about him. The other two approached the front door. Thinking that they might be in need of directions, I went to the front door and opened it.
"Mister Whist? Mister Norman Whist?"
"We are from the Department of Homeland Security. May we come in?" He flashed a wallet containing a badge at me before putting it away.
I suppose so. Please come this way." I lead them into our living room.
"Please sit yourselves down." I picked up the television remote control and turned off the set. "What can I do for you?"
"You recently wrote a story called 'Per Ardua Ad Astra' and posted it on the Fine Stories web site?"
"Yes, what about it?"
"Please tell us, where did you you get your information from?"
"I either made it up or got it from the internet. Why?"
"The why is not important. Which web sites did you use?"
"I think I got most of the geographical information from Google Earth."
"No! Not that. I meant from where did you get the information about the space drive?
"I made that part up. Why?"
"What do you know about the Alcubierre Drive?"
"Not a lot. There's an entry on Wikipedia. Why?"
"Never mind 'why'. You describe the drive as a tilt in the space-time continuum. How did you arrive at that description?"
"It seemed an easier way of describing it than the way it was put on the Wikipedia page."
He changed the subject.
"When were you in Louisiana?"
"Never. What has Louisiana got to do with anything?"
"I told you. Never mind the whys. We're here to question you. Now then, when were you in Livingston?"
"Livingston... ? Oh, do you mean LIGO?"
"I said Livingston, but yes, I meant the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory. Now, what do you know?"
"Only what I've read. Oh, there have been programs on the Discovery Channel about it."
"Now how did you come to compare it to the Michelson-Morley experiments?"
"The shape of the experiment."
"How do you mean?"
They both have long arms at right angles to each other."
"When were you last in Magnolia?"
"I've never been there in my life. Why should I?"
"I've told you. I ask the questions. Now why choose a warehouse on North Vine Street?"
"Merely corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative."
He looked a bit blank. I don't think he recognized the quote from Gilbert and Sullivan's 'The Mikado'.
"That's it! You're coming with us."
He gestured to his partner, who went behind me, grabbing my arms and enclosing my wrists in handcuffs. Before I knew it I was dragged outside with no contact with my wife, no hat and coat and roughly inserted into the back of their car. I don't think they even bothered to shut the front door.
I was driven to the local airport, where I was hustled into a small jetliner. Chained into a seat where the windows were covered, I had no hope of seeing where we were going. The flight seemed to take forever. It probably lasted about forty minutes. What made it seem longer is that no one would talk to me. Every time I tried to start a conversation, I was blatantly ignored. They hardly even spoke to each other and then it was in low tones that I couldn't hear.
The aircraft landed and taxied for a long time. Just before it stopped, the sound from the engines reverberated loudly. When I was taken off the aircraft, I could see that it had taxied into a hanger. I was led through a side door of the hanger and down stairs until I was three or four levels below ground. Taken through a door there was a suite of four rooms, a small bedroom adjacent to a bathroom and a small sitting room. To reach these you had to go through what was obviously an interrogation room.